Celebrating 30 Years of Tactical Espionage Action: A Metal Gear Retrospective

July 13, 2017Written by Tyler Treese

metal gear retrospective

When Konami released Metal Gear in 1987, nobody would’ve predicted that the series would still be going strong 30 years later. It’s truly incredible how well the series has been able to adapt with the times. No matter if it’s in 2D or 3D, linear or open-world, the series has shown a penchant for being phenomenal. In an ever-changing industry, Metal Gear has been the rare constant.

Despite this, the beloved series is now in a strange state as Konami attempts to move forward from the departure of series creator Hideo Kojima. There’s no doubting that losing a visionary like Kojima is a blow to the publisher, but there’s still a good chance that Metal Gear can persist just like its iconic protagonist Solid Snake. Before looking at the series’ future, let’s celebrate Metal Gear‘s 30th anniversary by taking a look back at 30 years of tactical espionage action.

A Brief History of Metal Gear

Despite being synonymous with PlayStation systems, the Metal Gear series debuted on a Microsoft console. The original Metal Gear featured a lot of the ideas that players would become synonymous with the series as Solid Snake infiltrated a base, got advice by radio communication, and players found out that the ultimate sneaking tool was a cardboard box. It was followed up by a sequel in 1990, and then the series took an eight year hiatus.

While fans of the original games had to wait a few years for another entry, it’s safe to say that Metal Gear Solid was worth it. The iconic PlayStation title showed that the series couldn’t only make the transition to 3D, but also thrive due to a new sense of freedom offered up to the player. It featured a highly cinematic story that set new bars for production values in gaming, memorable boss fights that are still incredibly fun to play today, and some of the best graphics seen on the PS1.

Metal Gear Solid ended up being a huge success for Konami, and fans were excited to continue Solid Snake’s adventures in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. Much to everyone’s surprise, that wasn’t exactly the case. Sure, Snake still appeared in the 2001 PlayStation 2 release, but players took control of a new protagonist named Raiden for the bulk of the game. It was an incredible twist by Kojima, and it cemented that nothing was for certain when it came to Metal Gear Solid.

metal gear retrospective

Continuing to buck player expectations, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater was not only a prequel that took place 40 years prior, but also introduced a number of new gameplay systems. Players had to heal the injuries of Big Boss, cook food in order to not starve, and use camouflage in order to hide from enemies. While not everyone loved these changes, it irrefutable that it resulted in one of the most memorable experiences on PlayStation 2.

A number of portable spin-offs would follow, as the series became one of the key selling points for the PlayStation Portable, but Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots would mark Metal Gear‘s debut on PlayStation 3. It also signified the end of an era, as the game starred a rapidly aging Solid Snake on his final mission. It was a fitting closing point for the series, and wrapped up the core story arc rather nicely.

But a successful series never truly ends, and just two years later the series would continue with Peace Walker, the first PSP Metal Gear game directed by Hideo Kojima. After another spin-off in the form of Metal Gear Rising, Kojima would release his final game in the series he created with Metal Gear Solid V. It was quite the way to go out, though, as The Phantom Pain ended up being one of the best games of 2015, and proved that Metal Gear could adapt to the new demands of replayability and open-world gaming. It proved that there’s still a future for the series, and innovation to be found within it.

Ludography

 

The Future

The short term future of Metal Gear is known as a team is hard at work on Metal Gear Survive. The cooperative action game is definitely a departure for the series, but it’s also a blast to play if what we saw at E3 was any indication. Its release will be extremely telling, as it’ll tell us if players are willing to forgive Konami’s recent stream of bad press. Consumers will have a chance to vote with their wallets, but will they miss out on a good game due to their own personal feelings?

The series’ future beyond Survive is much less clear. There’s a number of ways it could go, including a hiatus, but it would also make a lot of sense for Konami to keep the Metal Gear brand active. It’s one of gaming’s most popular series, and that means there is money to be made. I wouldn’t be shocked to see additional remasters, or even a remake of prior games in the impressive Fox Engine, in the short term. Either way, it’ll be interesting to see what Konami’s next moves will be.